Big data and jobs, CAP value & more

Compiled by Barry List

INFORMS podcasts continue to offer provocative conversation with leading analytics/O.R. practitioners and thinkers. The latest podcasts include Tom Davenport on his latest book about analytics for management, Greta Roberts on “talent analytics,” Jake Breeden on “tipping sacred cows” and NYPD’s Evan Levine on “doing a better job communicating analytics results.” Visit to download the latest selections.

Visit the INFORMS Newsroom at ( for news about analytics and INFORMS press releases. Remember to share your news-making research with the INFORMS Communications Department. Contact INFORMS Communications Director Barry List at or 1-800-4INFORMs.

And now, recent excerpts about analytics and O.R. the news:

Big data means more jobs

To gain more insight about this rapidly growing job field and how to narrow the skills gap, BusinessNewsDaily spoke with Dr. Betsy Page Sigman, a distinguished professor at the Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and an expert in technology, social media, electronic commerce and information systems. Sigman is a member of INFORMS.

BND: Which industries will have the most need for big data and people to fill those positions?

B.P.S.: I predict that some of the largest Big Data needs will be in health care, retail and manufacturing. The McKinsey Global Institute found that retailers could see increases in operating margin of 60 percent or more due to Big Data. They also believe that more than $300 billion in value could be the result if health care Big Data is used “creatively and effectively.” Manufacturing, with its multitude of sensors and gauges, will use big data to assure that their systems become faster, safer and more productive.

BND: What kind of jobs will be available?

B.P.S.: The jobs that will be available will basically be of three types: 1) those requiring significant statistical and analytical skills (e.g., statisticians and operations research engineers); 2) those requiring big data “savvy” and an understanding of how big data can be used to make better business decisions (e.g., business managers and market research and financial analysts); and 3) those who can support the types of computer hardware and software needed for big data analysis (e.g., computer scientists and database administrators.).

Business News Daily, Sept. 5

Kroger, Edelman finalist, helping build local IT

Kroger is helping to build Cincinnati’s information technology cluster by deploying cutting-edge products, forming innovative consulting partnerships and taking leadership roles in regional initiatives to grow Cincinnati’s tech labor pool.

“It’s an amazing place to practice IT,” said Chris Hjelm, senior vice president and chief information officer for Kroger. “We’re in the manufacturing business. We do logistics. We’re obviously huge in retail. We have our Kroger Personal Finance business. We have the relationship with Dunnhumby. We have a really broad portfolio of technology that we can expose people to from a business perspective.” ...

But just like that nondescript store of the future in Blue Ash, there is a lot happening inside Kroger’s tech team that isn’t widely known. …

In the last three years, Kroger was awarded 10 patents for innovations that track inventory, improve logistics, manage customer rewards and enable online shopping. …

Kroger was named a finalist in January for the prestigious Franz Edelman Award for Achievement in Operations Research and the Management Sciences. The honor was bestowed for its computer-enabled pharmacy management system, which reduced out-of-stock incidents by 1.5 million and generated $70 million in additional revenue.

WCPO, Aug. 14

CAP certification proves value to employers

Is the data analyst you’re thinking about hiring qualified to do the work that’s required? Does he or she have all the requisite skill sets to add true value to the business? As the importance of big data grows for businesses across the board, the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences is trying to help them answer those questions.

The Institute, better known by its acronym – INFORMS – has launched a certification program to define and establish the requisite credentials for professional data analysts. “We realized that many people are throwing up a shingle that says ‘I can do this,’ but companies had no good way to determine if that was true,” INFORMS president Anne Robinson tells Information Management.

Information Management, July 29

Management scientist Ed Kaplan: How dangerous is America?

It’s not breaking news that the United States began to feel like a more dangerous place after 9/11. The Gallup Poll has reported that roughly 9 in 10 Americans have worried about future terror attacks on U.S. soil ever since. For many people, that general sense of dread got even more intense after the Boston Marathon bombings. In late April, Gallup said 51 percent of Americans surveyed believed another attack could happen soon, up from 38 percent about a year and a half earlier. Yet the reality is that we’re far safer than we often feel.

In late 2012, I published a study in the journal Studies in Conflict & Terrorism that set out to estimate how many jihadi plots are in the works and how long it takes would-be terrorists to plan them. I knew that in the anxious weeks and months after a terrorist attack, it could feel as if we were under siege – as if there were bombs waiting to go off around every corner and under every subway seat. But the results of my analysis suggest otherwise: On average, at any one time there are fewer than three hidden terror plots being planned across the country.

How is it possible to count hidden terror plots? … my research shows that at least 80 percent of all jihadi plots have been detected or deterred before anyone got hurt. This is a remarkable result. Perhaps our government’s controversial counter-terrorism efforts have prevented more Bostons than is commonly believed.

– Ed Kaplan, Boston Globe, July 28

MIT’s Barnett: Why you won’t die in a plane crash

Arnold Barnett is the George Eastman Professor of Management Science and professor of statistics at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. An aviation safety expert, he has worked for the Federal Aviation Administration, Transportation Security Administration and two dozen airlines and airports. He was awarded the 2002 President’s Citation from the Flight Safety Foundation for “truly outstanding contributions with respect to safety.”

(CNN) — I write this piece with some trepidation, because people are understandably troubled by the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 and want to know why it happened. They do not want to hear that it “could have been worse,” that such events are extremely rare or that the causes of the accident aren’t clear. But I will focus below on all of these points, because they are true and worth noting. …

–, July 9

Unhappy truckers and other algorithmic problems

A position like Bob Santilli’s, performing optimization, didn’t always exist at UPS. Times used to be simpler. Until the early 1980s, UPS drivers used to have one simple goal: to get all the packages in their truck delivered by the end of the day. Those were the “ground” days. “The only thing we had was time sensitivity for commercial drivers,” notes Santilli. Jeff Winters, who heads operations research for UPS, says “everything was a human-scalable problem to solve.” And it had to be. “We had individual carload diagrams for drivers every day,” says Santilli.

… the traveling salesman problem grows considerably more complex when you actually have to think about the happiness of the salesman. And, not only do you have to know when he’s unhappy, you have to know if your model might make him unhappy. Warren Powell, director of the Castle Laboratory at Princeton University’s Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering, has optimized transportation companies from Netjets to Burlington Northern. He recalls how, at Yellow Freight company, “we were doing things with drivers – they said, you just can’t do that.” There were union rules, there was industry practice. Tractors can be stored anywhere, humans like to go home at night. “I said we’re going to need a file with 2,000 rules. Trucks are simple; drivers are complicated.”

Nautilus, July 11

Barry List ( is director of communications at INFORMS.